It’s a strange concept for me these days, death. I no longer fear it like I used to.
I no longer think of someone as “gone;” rather, in a sense, a dead person seems more alive to me now than ever before.
Losing someone close to you will do that, make you think more openly.
Maybe it’s wishful. Maybe I’m just a fool holding onto hope and faith that I will one day see this person or that one again.
I want to run to the flour-covered apron of my grandma.
I want to squeeze the fluff right off my darling nephew.
I want to see bright smiles of friends we lost in a plane crash.
I want to watch my childhood friend’s larger-than-life stepfather proceed down the aisle of the Church in his kingly garb at Christmastime.
I want to watch my daughter laughing with her old friend. I want to run the streets with mine.
And I want to put a young little boy I once adored onto my lap in the passenger seat of a car one last time and ride around town with the guy I thought I loved.
A guy I hoped would love me back.
The last few years have been wild, 2021, especially.
So many events happened in such a short time. For the rest of my life, there will be 2019. And then there will be everything after 2019.
And I guess it’s true that lately my mind has been focused on death and failure. I’ve been surrounded by both over the last couple of years.
Last year on January 1, I saw an owl on my back deck.
During the month of January, the owl made various appearances, not every day, but often enough that I knew to take note.
We’ve lived in our home for eleven years this March. I’d never seen it before, except for one time in October of 2021. I was sitting on my deck when I saw a huge bird fly by. I didn’t know at the time it was the owl. I even remember asking myself, “What in the heck was that?!”
Soon after, my word for 2022 came to me: Death.
As you might know, in medieval times, owls symbolized doom. Made sense, then, that I would see one. Oddly two more words came to me in 2022. I usually only grab one.
In 2021, the word had been strength, but in 2022, not only death, but also hubris and nevertheless, made appearances constantly.
I’d begun normalizing death for my children in 2021 after my nephew passed, so part of me hoped that maybe my word-picks were subconscious.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Though I’d dealt with death plenty in the decade since I’d moved to Oxford, 2022 would only bring more.
One death I didn’t even know about until last night.
An old friend died last summer and no one bothered to let me know.
I’m just a little old nobody, and I know that, and I’m fine with it. I’ve made peace with it.
No one owes me a phone call, a text, a word. Not a soul.
But for someone who grew up feeling unloved, unvalued, unseen and unknown, this was one more thorn in my side. And it hurt.
What makes it worse is that I’d always felt this person and I were beyond close. There were times I would be thinking of him and out of the blue, he’d call or text.
But I’d felt nothing all these months after his passing, save for one moment that I almost texted him after my sister-in-law sent a picture of my nephew and me standing in front of a tree on a day when his brother and him were hanging out with us at my parent’s house.
I don’t know the whole story behind my old friend’s death. I’m sure I won’t, and that’s fitting. That’s all I’ll say about that.
The bigger truth is I don’t know the whole story about a lot of things.
Death, for example. I don’t know that we ever really know what’s happening behind the scenes.
Sure, as Christ-followers, we want to. We want to believe we have strong faith and certainty, but those two things don’t really go hand in hand, do they?
I’m sad today. Sad that I didn’t know. Sad that time and a lot of hurt got the best of me and my old friend.
I’m sad that all around me death reeks of bitterness and yearning.
I’m sad that I don’t have control of everything and don’t have all the answers.
And I’m sad that I still sometimes feel like the unseen, unheard, unloved little girl.
But I’m not sad that life turned out the way it did. Not at all.
It’s with that energy I find my word for 2023 so poignant:
This is the year of Beginnings.
I’m thankful that God knows better than I do.
He has had my back since day one.
And until I see Him face to face, I’m going to choose to keep growing and stretching; and even when I’m in my cocoon season, as I am now, I will trust in Him.
Rest in peace, old friend. You were a joy to know, and I’m thankful to have had the pleasure.
See you soon,